Letter from Duncan Grant to J M Keynes about the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, 1912


Dated 28 September 1912, this letter from the artist Duncan Grant describes preparations for Roger Fry’s Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition. This event had a major impact on a new generation of artists in Britain.

Grant exhibited one of his own paintings, The Queen of Sheba, writing, ‘I have been working like Hell to get something finished for the Grafton show which opens next week. I do nothing but ruin what I had already done which drives me to distraction’. He reports that, ‘A great many of the French pictures have already come + are very interesting. The Matisses are radiantianty [sic] beautiful’.

The letter is addressed to John Maynard Keynes, the economist, who was Grant’s sometime-lover and later his patron.

What was so important about the Post-Impressionist exhibitions?

In 1910 the artist and critic Roger Fry organised Manet and the Post-Impressionists, an exhibition that brought recent French art to London for the first time. Fry was the first to coin the term ‘Post-Impressionist’. The exhibition was many people’s first encounter with the works of Van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin and Matisse. This new style of painting dismantled the traditions of Western art and it shocked critics, who even thought the exhibition morally dangerous. Yet it influenced young British artists. Grant, for example, was inspired to experiment with the new techniques he saw the French artists using. Energised, his style transformed over the next decade.

The Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition of 1912, motivated by a trip to Paris with Grant and Clive Bell, was equally revolutionary. It featured living and working artists from Britain, France and Russia. Cubism made a strong appearance with Picasso and Braque, whose artworks abstracted pure form into fragmented, geometric shapes.

Who is in the photograph?

Bound with this volume of letters, the photograph is a group portrait of Grant, Virginia Woolf and her brother Thoby Stephen. It must date before November 1906, the month and year that Thoby died.

Full title:
Duncan James Corrowr Grant: letters to John Maynard Keynes; 1908-1914, n.d. Vol. I B.
28 September 1912; photograph before 1906; whole volume 1911–14
Manuscript / Letter / Ephemera / Photograph / Image
Duncan Grant, unknown [photographer]
Usage terms

Duncan Grant: © Estate of Duncan Grant. All rights reserved, DACS 2106. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

Unknown photographer (pre-1906): This material is in the Public Domain.

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British Library
Add MS 58120 B

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